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'He has really become a man' - Robbie Keane's first coach fondly recalls 'Jack the lad'

“I always believed he could be special,” Mark McGhee said.

A young Robbie Keane celebrates with Wolves team-mates
A young Robbie Keane celebrates with Wolves team-mates
Image: Allsport/INPHO

SCOTLAND ASSISTANT MANAGER Mark McGhee has fondly recalled a young Robbie Keane, who the coach handed a senior debut to during his tenure as Wolves boss back in 1997.

McGhee, who comes head to head with his former player this Friday as the Scottish team take on Ireland in a vital Euro 2016 qualifier, remembers being highly impressed by the Dubliner as a youngster, telling Herald Scotland.

“I always believed he could be special. Even at that age he was sensational and he’s had a sensational career.

“One of the things that has impressed me about him is that over the years he has matured. He has really become a man, coming from being a kind of Jack the lad little Irish boy, to quite a serious and respected individual, captaining his country.

“It’s a fantastic rise. He’ll be relishing this game, going to Parkhead, for sure.”

McGhee also denied that the game with Ireland this week was a must-win encounter, but admits that it has overshadowed their upcoming clash with England.

“Absolutely no disrespect to the England game, it’s not irrelevant, but it’s on a different level from the Ireland game. This is the most important game of our tenure, there’s no doubt about it.

“It’s a huge opportunity for both teams to take the advantage if one of us could win it. It’s all about qualifying for France. We could beat England 6-0, but it doesn’t get us to France. This is the game.”

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Paul Fennessy

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